>Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2000 01:06:21 EDT
>Op-Ed / The New York Times / August 10, 2000
>Nader's Threat to the Environment
>By ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.
>WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Ralph Nader is my friend and hero, but his Green Party
>candidacy for the presidency could torpedo efforts to address the nation's
>most important environmental challenges.
> The threat, of course, is that Mr. Nader's candidacy could siphon votes
>Al Gore, the environment's most visible champion since Theodore Roosevelt,
>and lead to the election of George W. Bush.
>Mr. Nader dismisses his spoiler role by arguing that there is little
>distinction between the major parties' candidates and that Mr. Gore has
>compromised on too many issues. While I admire Mr. Nader's high-minded
>ideals, his suggestion that there is no difference between Mr. Gore and Mr.
>Bush is irresponsible.
>On the environment, the difference is fundamental. It reaches deep into their
>philosophies and records, showing most recently in their choice of running
>mates: Dick Cheney's anti-environmental votes in Congress extended even to
>opposing the Clean Water Act, while Joe Lieberman has staunchly supported
>strong environmental legislation and even written it.
>While environmentalists have had their disappointments with the Clinton
>administration, they need to keep their perspective. Mr. Gore, more than
>anyone else, deserves credit for rallying conservationists and fortifying
>President Clinton to repulse the Gingrich Congress's efforts to eviscerate 30
>years of environmental law.
>He helped persuade Mr. Clinton to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
>in a standoff that led to shutdown of the government -- a risky gambit that,
>unpredictably, also paid off politically. Mr. Gore also fought for tough
>clean air rules, secured more financing for programs like energy conservation
>research and successfully promoted many measures to preserve diminishing wild
>He has risked heavy criticism for his support of the Kyoto agreement to limit
>global warming, and his book "Earth in the Balance" is an ambitious blueprint
>for the environmental movement.
>For his efforts, Mr. Gore has earned the enmity of the polluters and their
>political spokesmen, including Mr. Bush and his father, who christened Mr.
>Gore "Ozone Man" to ridicule his concern for clean air.
>Governor Bush, by contrast, has a famously abysmal environmental record, made
>all the more objectionable by his attempts to deny it. His appointees to
>Texas environmental agencies come from the chemical and oil industries. He
>has allowed Texas' biggest polluters, his contributors, to write
>environmental laws that make compliance voluntary. Texas under his leadership
>is 49th in the nation in per capita environmental spending. In a change that
>seemed impossible just five years ago, Houston has now surpassed
>long-suffering Los Angeles as the smoggiest city. Texas now claims the
>country's highest levels of air and water pollution and toxic releases.
>Governor Bush has promised to hand over the Arctic Refuge to the oil
>industry, dilute the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, and lift protections on
>public lands. With clean air programs already under assault from conservative
>judicial activists, he praises the anti-environmental decisions of Justices
>Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Whatever his litmus test for court
>appointments, it almost certainly won't include a positive record on the
>environment. And Mr. Bush favors the current system of campaign finance,
>which puts inordinate power in the hands of polluters.
>Incredibly, Mr. Nader has said that, if forced to choose, he would vote for
>Mr. Bush -- presumably as more likely to cause a backlash in the
>environment's favor. In fact, a vote for Mr. Nader is a vote for Mr. Bush,
>and environmentalists who join his personal crusade risk marginalizing the
>Al Gore's eight years as vice president have mainly tested his loyalty. As
>president, he will at last have the opportunity to carry out his own
>Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the president of the Water Keeper Alliance and a
>lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
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